Meanwhile in an EU Candidate State

From Lebanon’s Daily Star:

Turkey on Monday appointed a general who is expected to adopt a tougher line toward EU negotiations to replace the head the country’s powerful military, who was widely considered a moderate. The change in leadership, which was widely anticipated, comes as Turkey is insisting that Washington do more to crack down on Turkish Kurdish rebels operating out of bases in northern Iraq…

Buyukanit raised eyebrows this year by praising a soldier subsequently jailed for a bombing believed to be aimed at stirring up unrest in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bombing triggered riots in the region and a parliamentary inquiry.

Analysts say Buyukanit’s no-nonsense views have been shaped by the time he spent in the southeast during the 1990s, heyday of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is now seen as weakened but far from defeated.

“Buyukanit is more pro-American, more security-minded than Ozkok. He is not against the Europeanization of Turkey but he is more influenced by nationalist tendencies,” said Hussein Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

“He will be much tougher in the fight against the PKK.”

Hmm…

Security-minded is what one would usually expect a general to be, but the key question will be how broadly he defines the interests of Turkish society. Has he kept up with changes, or will he try to turn the clock back?

I’m not at all sure that “no-nonsense” is the proper way to describe someone who advocates purely military solutions to Kurdish issues in Turkey. In fact, that view is full of nonsense, as much of the 1980s and 1990s demonstrate.

And just what a “tougher line toward the EU” means is another question. The EU line (and the NATO line, for that matter) is that civilian governments control the national military, full stop. The fact that the political views of a Turkish general are a matter of interest is itself a sign of the distance still to go for Turkey. Questions like this are a normal part of accession — Greece’s military junta ended its rule just seven years before that country joined the EC; there were worries early on about Poland’s military (a legacy of Col. Pilsudski in the inter-war era); Spain and Portugal probably had to address the issue as well, given Franco and Salazar.

Bears watching.

Hardliner new Turkish chief of staff

The Daily Star – Politics – Ankara picks hard-line general to replace armed forces’ outgoing chief of staff

Turkey on Monday appointed a general who is expected to adopt a tougher line toward EU negotiations to replace the head the country’s powerful military, who was widely considered a moderate. The change in leadership, which was widely anticipated, comes as Turkey is insisting that Washington do more to crack down on Turkish Kurdish rebels operating out of bases in northern Iraq…

Buyukanit raised eyebrows this year by praising a soldier subsequently jailed for a bombing believed to be aimed at stirring up unrest in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bombing triggered riots in the region and a parliamentary inquiry.

Analysts say Buyukanit’s no-nonsense views have been shaped by the time he spent in the southeast during the 1990s, heyday of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is now seen as weakened but far from defeated.

“Buyukanit is more pro-American, more security-minded than Ozkok. He is not against the Europeanization of Turkey but he is more influenced by nationalist tendencies,” said Hussein Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

“He will be much tougher in the fight against the PKK.”

Troglodytes in Turkey?

Well it seems that Spain’s troglodytes aren’t the only ones hovering around the EU arena. Turkey’s Land Forces Commander Gen. Yasar Buyukanit might be another case it seems:

As we feared in our editorial on Monday the accusations from the prosecutor that the Land Forces commander tried to influence the judicial process by making statements on behalf of a defendant have been blown out of proportion that could well turn into a full-blown domestic crisis….

The background to this situation is explained here:

The reasons for the tension between the government and the military, which are now rising over Gen. Buyukanit, are briefly as follows:

Erdogan’s presidential bid: Some circles claim that the AK Party leader wants to become president through majority support in Parliament in 2007. But people close to the AK Party indicate that Gen. Buyukanit, who is set to become chief of General Staff this August, is the biggest obstacle to Erdogan’s presidential aspirations. That’s the reason for rumors about Gen. Buyukanit sparked before he became Land Forces Commander and that some circles argued that the AK Party didn’t want to see Buyukanit helm the land forces

Uneasy AK Party members: The AK Party deputies see the presence of Buyukanit — who often inveighs against fundamentalist movements, uses Kemalist undertones in his statements, makes statements contradicting the AK Party’s policies on many issues ranging from Cyprus to northern Iraq, and terrorism to religious vocational Imam Hatip high schools — as a direct threat to their rule. Some AK Party deputies don’t want Buyukanit to assume the post to show the AK Party’s power to everyone. It’s striking that some AK Party deputies say, “He did what we couldn’t do,” referring to the prosecutor that prepared the indictment.

Now from the standpoint of my sparse knowledge of Turkish politics it is hard to tell just what sort of a ‘troglodyte’ General Buyukanit actually is, or indeed whether or not he is a troglodyte at all. One thing however is clear: the balance between military and political institutions in Turkey is far from ‘normalised’ and a right royal battle seems to be going on.

On another front, this article by Ayhan Simsek draws attention to the extent to which developments in Iraq may cast a long and important shadow over Turkey’s EU accession aspirations.